Supporting patients using Optune to treat glioblastoma

Consultant clinical oncologist Dr Matt Williams explains how a new multi-disciplinary clinic being run by Imperial Private Healthcare (IPH) is supporting patients using Optune to treat their brain tumours.

“Optune is a relatively new form of treatment for primary brain tumours, in particular glioblastoma. While it provides unique benefits to patients, particularly allowing treatment outside the hospital setting, it also presents a number of specific challenges and side-effects that patients need support with.

“As the largest referrer of Optune in the country, Imperial Private Healthcare has built up considerable experience in caring for patients using Optune. Making sure these patients get the tailored support and advice that they need is part of our continued commitment to providing the best care possible for brain tumour patients.”

How Optune works

“Optune works by using alternating low-frequency electrical fields (known as tumour-treating fields) to disrupt cell division or kill cells within the tumour. Unlike normal adult brain cells, tumour cells divide rapidly and the electrical fields are applied at a frequency that specifically targets the tumour cells preventing it from growing or spreading so quickly. Clinical trials have found that patients who receive Optune alongside standard therapy (radiotherapy and chemotherapy) have average survival rates of around 20.9 months, compared to 16 months for chemotherapy alone. This makes it the only new treatment, outside the standard therapies, to improve outcomes for glioblastoma patients.

“Optune is unlike other cancer treatments, not only in how it targets the tumour but also because it is portable. Adhesive electrodes are stuck to the skin of the head and connected to a portable device, which can be placed in a bag so the device can be worn and carried around throughout the day. The design brings many benefits to patients including freedom of movement, but common side-effects include skin complaints from the regular changing of electrodes and shaving of the scalp.”

Specialist care

“Optune is only available privately in the UK, funded either through self-pay or health insurance. While Imperial Private Healthcare does not provide the device itself, we have been referring patients to Novocure, who make the device and rent it to patients, for 3 years.

“Providing the right ongoing clinical care to these patients is really important, especially as they can be wearing the device and undergoing treatment for up to 18 hours a day which can be mentally and physically demanding. That is why we launched our monthly Optune clinic; to provide easily accessible multi-disciplinary support to patients, because we know this is what benefits them most.

“The clinic is open to anyone in the UK using Optune to treat their brain tumour, regardless of whether they were referred by Imperial Private Healthcare or not. A multi-professional team including myself and fellow consultant oncologist Dr Saleem, cancer nurse specialists Shivani Soni and Hannah Baxter, and a product specialist from Novocure see patients and their carers either in person or via video call in 30-minute slots to review their Optune usage and advise on any skincare complaints, side-effects or worries. We also hold Optune support groups where patients and their families can meet others using Optune, along with our staff team, to talk about how they are finding using the device and what works for them. These services are available free of charge to NHS patients who are paying for Optune themselves, or for a fee for those with health insurance.

“The clinic really demonstrates how we are capitalising on the knowledge and experience we have across the disciplines at Imperial Private Healthcare, to benefit and improve the outcomes of our patients.”

Patients who are already using Optune and would like to access the clinic can refer themselves by contacting Sarah Lazare, oncology co-ordinator at sarah.lazare@nhs.net. Patients with a brain tumour who are interested in accessing Optune can email imperial.private.healthcare@nhs.net.